From Publishers Weekly
Ninety-four year old Sema Wilkes has been running her boardinghouse in Savannah, Ga., since 1943, cooking up traditional Southern favorites biscuits, collard greens, hush puppies for a clientele of gentlemen farmers, Girl Scouts and Yankee tourists. Indeed, the remembrances of Mrs. Wilkes and her family and friends are so entertaining that the book is best approached as a memoir/oral history interrupted by recipes for soups, casseroles, fried delights and desserts. The book vividly portrays a few of the eatery's more irregular regulars, including one Spanish Civil War veteran who, always arriving via tricycle, ate there every weekday for three decades. Equally well-rendered are the strong women who have helped Mrs. Wilkes in the kitchen throughout the years, including the late Mildred Capers, who judged the doneness of her fried chicken by the sound of the oil in the fryer. But it's not clear how some of these dishes would fare outside of Mrs. Wilkes's delightful environs; the Fried Chicken recipe lists the needed ingredients: flour, evaporated milk, salt and pepper, but obviously, it is the context Southern hospitality, fresh ingredients and an experienced kitchen staff that make it special. Also, a few oddities included in the book would have perhaps been best left on the boardinghouse table a Tango Salad, for instance, with lemon gelatin, canned pineapple and pimentos. Nevertheless, this is a delightful homage to Southern life. (May)Forecast: The continuing interest in Southern food, along with an ecstatic blurb from Craig Claiborne, should help this book's sales.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Sema Wilkes has presided over her Savannah, GA, dining room for 68 years. At age 94, she still tastes every dish before it comes out of the kitchen, but now there are three other generations of her family working in the restaurant. Although "Mrs. Wilkes' " was originally a typical boardinghouse, feeding only its dozen or so roomers, good food was always her focus, and it became a restaurant soon after she took over in the 1940s. Today, there are lines around the block of people waiting to taste her Southern food at least 13 different dishes at every meal and "the boardinghouse" has a national reputation. But the cooking is much as it always was (one of her cooks has been there since the1950s): Buttermilk Chicken, Corn Pudding, the biscuits that Craig Claiborne described as "one of the greatest things, ever, to happen" in his life. Coauthor Edge's readable text provides the history of the restaurant and the people involved in it. Recommended for all regional American cooking collections.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.